State has a duty to suppress public
expressions of homosexuality, says Catholic Bishop
Here is Dignity's response to
Bishop Henry's pastoral letter. We have already seen Bishop Henry's
automated replies to critics that he is "simply proclaiming the gospel"
so I have chosen to address the bishop's superiors. The letter
was copied to Bishop Henry, to the Holy Father, to the Apostolic Nuncio
to Canada, and many Canadian newspapers.
The Most Reverend Archbishop Brendan O’Brien
President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
2500 Don Reid Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 2J2
January 19, 2005
gay and lesbian Catholics of Canada are hurt, embarrassed and outraged
Bishop Henry's recent
remarks about us. As you are well aware Bishop
Henry is unrepentant in the face of a "blizzard
of criticism" from Canadians of all faiths, and he insists that in
his pastoral letter he is "simply proclaiming the gospel" when he calls
upon the government of Canada to "use its coercive power to proscribe or
curtail [homosexuality] in the interests of the common good".
It should be the duty of the CCCB to either clarify to
which Gospel passages Bishop Henry refers, or to publicly correct his
position of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops on equal marriage
for gays and lesbians is well known: the CCCB would impose Catholic
doctrine on Canadians of all faiths when it enters the secular arena to
oppose civil marriage for same-sex couples. Religious leaders have a
right to weigh in on this issue and that debate continues. However
Bishop Henry has strayed too far from Christ's teachings and even
from Catholic doctrine when he links homosexuals with adulterers,
prostitutes and pornographers.
does not approve
our loving relationships, but it does recognize that "homosexual
persons" exist and in the words of your American counterparts in their
1997 pastoral letter,
"homosexual brothers and sisters, though at times you may feel
discouraged, hurt or angry, do not walk away from your families, from
the Christian community, from all those who love you. In you God's love
is revealed. You are always our children."
We the organization of gay and lesbian Catholics in
Canada once again reach out to our church leadership for dialogue about
the issues that face us as a faith community, and in the light of Bishop
Henry's controversial remarks, call for a definitive statement
of reprimand and repudiation of this misguided shepherd's pastoral
letter which serves only to inflame prejudice and sow seeds of hatred.
Norman Prince, President
Dignity Canada Dignité
Sun, January 16, 2005
CALGARY -- Comparing homosexuality to adultery, prostitution and
pornography, Calgary's outspoken Catholic bishop is calling on his flock to
resist the same-sex marriage movement, adding the state has a duty to suppress
public expressions of homosexuality. In a
Bishop Frederick Henry says the same-sex marriage movement is seeking to bring
homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, if reluctant, acceptance by the
"Marriage and the family are the foundations of society, through which
children are brought into this world and nurtured as they grow to adulthood,"
says Henry in his letter.
"Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the
foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the state must use its
coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common
to be read to southern Alberta's quarter-million Catholics in their churches
this weekend, has angered Calgary's gay and lesbian community, with one gay
activist calling Henry a fascist.
'HOW DARE HE?'
"I mean that quite sincerely," said Stephen Lock, Calgary representative of
the Canadians for Equal Marriage Coalition. "How dare he? This is supposed to be
a good Christian?"
Lock called the letter hateful.
In an interview, Henry said society has a right to reject something that is
He insisted marriage is not a matter of rights, but of biological and
psychological fact. He said two individuals of the same sex will never be able
to marry because it is an insurmountable biological impossibility.
"The reality is, some people have same-sex attractions. And homosexual
people, of course, have rights that must be respected, like employment rights,
housing rights, pension rights.
"But we can't endorse homosexual activity or the lifestyle as normative.
Society is within its rights to say 'no,' this is unacceptable behaviour."
Lock, however, rejected Henry's assertion that same-sex marriage threatens
the institution of marriage and the family.
"This doesn't take away anybody else's rights whatsoever," he said.
"Heterosexual couples will still have the right to marry and have children. And
gay couples will have the right to marry and have children."
The Roman Catholic bishop of
Calgary has brought on a blizzard of criticism and hate mail by sending
pastoral letter to his flock arguing that the
state must use its coercive power either to proscribe or to curtail
homosexuality in society's interests.
Bishop Fred Henry's words were called
horrifying and un-Canadian by the head of a Christian homosexual
organization. The Anglican bishop of Calgary said he had "a great deal of
difficulty" with his Catholic counterpart's choice of language, and
academic theologians said Bishop Henry had not made a wise choice of
Which, in fact, was a conclusion
Bishop Henry arrived at himself. In an interview late yesterday afternoon,
he said if he was rewriting the letter, he would not talk about unleashing
the "coercive power" of the state.
What he had attempted to say was
misunderstood, he said. "You should see some of the hate mail I'm getting
right now. . . . I'm just amazed."
Bishop Henry, in his letter, abruptly
linked homosexuality with adultery, prostitution and pornography as human
acts that undermine the foundation of the family, and argued for "the
state . . . [to] use its coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in
the interests of the common good."
He also appeared to challenge the
late prime minister Pierre Trudeau's famous dictum that the state has no
place in the bedrooms of the nation.
"It is sometimes argued that what we
do in the privacy of our home is nobody's business," the bishop wrote.
"While the privacy of the home is
undoubtedly sacred, it is not absolute. Furthermore, an evil act remains
an evil act whether it is performed in public or in private." In the
interview, he said his only point in tying homosexuality together with
adultery, prostitution and pornography was to stress that all of them, in
common, undermine the fundamental status that marriage ought to have.
He said that what he meant by the
coercive power of the state was that the government should not be
endorsing events such as Gay Pride Week and treating sex in bathhouses as
private when it's public. And he insisted he wasn't advocating "a bedroom
police force. That's ridiculous."
However Bishop Henry, who has marched
many times where angels fear to tread — whacking prime ministers and
governments for, in his view, violating the laws of God — said of himself:
"There aren't many people who stand up and say, 'I'm tired of political
correctness.' And because I'm tired of it, don't try to silence me every
time I open my mouth by telling me I'm a hatemonger. Because I'm not. I'm
just trying to speak the truth as I see it, and I should be accorded the
freedom to express my opinions and try to influence people to see things
as I see them."
Calgary's Anglican bishop, Barry
Hollowell, asked who gets to define the nature of the common good, and
said the use of the state's coercive force rarely produces a common good.
Chris Ambidge of Toronto, spokesman
for the gay Christian organization Integrity Canada, said Bishop Henry's
comments were "completely inappropriate."
"I am horrified he would use a phrase
like 'coercive power,' " Mr. Ambidge said. "It's completely un-Canadian."
Stephen Locke, with Canadians for
Equal Marriage, says Henry is asking the state to suppress a segment of
"I have some really strong issues
with that. That's calling for the institution of some sort of police
state. That's very problematic," Locke said. "It's a total demonizing of
homosexuals and homosexuality, and it's not very nice from our point of
"It's a sad day for gay and lesbian
Catholics when a Canadian Catholic bishop describes our relationships as
evil," said Helen Kennedy, spokesperson for Challenge the Church, a
Catholic dissident group, said in a statement.
he calls himself a Christian"
Pastoral Letter of Bishop F. B. Henry, Bishop of Calgary - January, 2005
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Many assume that we are powerless, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been
invoked and the Supreme Court has spoken and settled the same-sex issue.
However, such an assumption is erroneous. The Supreme Court has said that
Parliament may redefine marriage, it has not said that it must redefine marriage
to include same-sex couples. The Supreme Court Justices talk about reading the
Constitution,“expansively,” and that it is like a “living tree which by way of
progressive interpretation, accommodates and addresses the realities of modern
Nevertheless, I would suggest that there are more roots to the tree than simply
the Charter of Rights and Freedom. There are also historical, cultural,
philosophical, moral, and anthropological roots. The failure to attend to the
health of all the roots runs the risk of killing the tree and destroying the
Contrary to what is normally alleged, the primary goals in seeking legalization
of same-sex “marriage” are not the financial or health or inheritance or pension
benefits associated with marriage. The search for stability and exclusivity in a
homosexual relationship is not the driving force. The principal objective in
seeking same-sex “marriage”is not really even about equality rights. The goal is
to acquire a powerful psychological weapon to change society’s rejection of
homosexual activity and lifestyle into gradual, even if reluctant, acceptance.
It is significant to note that 18 months after same-sex “marriage” arrived in
Canada (principally as a result of court decisions in Ontario and British
Columbia), more than 95% of adult Canadian gays have chosen to ignore their new
The Supreme Court also refused to answer whether the Charter requires that
marriage be redefined.
As Catholics we hold marriage to be a sacrament, a sacred covenant in which
husband and wife express their mutual love, and join with God in the creation of
a new human person, destined for eternal life.
However, without recourse to the sacramental reality
and without reliance on a multitude of quotes from Scared Scripture, we find
ourselves sharing basic common ground with the majority of Canadians who
understand marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, faithful in love and
open to the gift of life. Marriage and the family are the foundations of
society, through which children are brought into this world and nurtured as they
grow to adulthood. As such, the family is a more fundamental social institution
than the state, and the strength of the family is vital for the well-being of
our whole society.
Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and pornography undermine the
foundations of the family, the basis of society, then the State must use its
coercive power to proscribe or curtail them in the interests of the common good.
It is sometimes argued that what we do in the privacy of our home is nobody’ s
business. While the privacy of the home is undoubtedly sacred, it is not
absolute. Furthermore, an evil act remains an evil act whether it is performed
in public or in private.
Personal choice is exercised both in opting for the marital state and in the
choice of one’s spouse. However, the future spouses are not free to alter
marriage’s essential purpose or properties. These do not depend on the will or
the sexual orientation of the contracting parties. They are rooted in natural
law and do not change.
The committed union of two people of the same sex is not the same human reality
as the committed union of one man and one woman. A same-sex union is not a
physical union that transmits human life, producing children. A same-sex union
is not the joining of two complementary natures that complete each other. Simply
stated, a same sex union is not marriage. The idea that homosexuals can create
same sex “marriage” through their individual choice is false. All the packaging
in the world doesn’t alter substance.
Some would allege that opposing same-sex “marriage” is pure prejudice. This
contention is also false. There are human rights laws, which say: men and women
must be paid the same wage for the same work; an employer may not refuse to hire
someone because of the skin colour; landlords may not discriminate on the basis
of sexual orientation. These decision uphold the rights of the individual and,
at the same time, strengthen Canadian society. They encourage us to recognize
the humanity of the other person.
Furthermore, a man and a woman wanting to marry may be completely different in
their characteristics such as: colour, ethnicity, in wealth and social status,
physical attributes, and educational background. None of these differences are
insurmountable obstacles to marriage. The two individuals are still a man and a
woman, and the requirements of nature are respected. Two individual of the same
sex, regardless of their race, wealth, stature, erudition or fame, will never be
able to marry because of an insurmountable biological impossibility.
The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to same-sex couples is not
discrimination. It is not something opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice
requires such an opposition.
It is the right and the responsibility of all citizens who are troubled by the
proposal to reinvent the institution of marriage, to enter into the debate and,
with clarity and charity, to make their voices heard by their fellow citizens
and our political leaders.
Please take the time to write, email and/or fax government leaders and your
local member of parliament registering your objection to the proposal to
reinvent the institution of marriage.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary
human rights complaints
By BILL GRAVELAND
March 31, 2005
Press) - Faced with human rights complaints, Calgary's outspoken Roman
Catholic bishop says he will not be bullied into changing his views
against homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Henry wrote a pastoral letter to his parishioners last January condemning
same-sex marriage. A column based on the letter was also published in the
Calgary Sun newspaper. "Since homosexuality, adultery, prostitution and
pornography undermine the foundations of the family, the basis of society,
then the State must use its coercive power to . . . curtail them in the
interests of the common good," Henry wrote.
The letter and
column prompted two complaints against Henry to the Alberta Human Rights
A defiant Henry
called a news conference Wednesday to respond to the complaints.
Henry said his
rights to freedom of religion and free speech have been violated.
support same-sex marriage want to shut the churches out of this important
debate," the bishop said.
favour same-sex marriage have been given a full opportunity to state their
views on the issue. But now they are saying anyone who speaks out against
same-sex marriage is discriminating against homosexuals."
complaint, Carol Johnson of Calgary said she was alarmed by Henry's
"I believe the
publication of Bishop Henry's letter is likely to expose homosexuals to
hatred or contempt," wrote Johnson.
are particularly dangerous when made by a person in a position of trust
complaint from Norman Greenfield was received by both Henry and the
commission on Tuesday.
regional director of Egale Canada, a gay rights lobby group, said he
doesn't dispute that Henry has an obligation to represent the views of his
church, including on same-sex marriage.
But Lock said
lumping homosexuality in with things like pornography and prostitution is
going too far.
starts calling for the coercive power of the State to suppress or curtail
any legal activity, that's really oppressive to be saying stuff like
that," Lock said.
Henry said while
he expected there would be complaints about his position, he is
disappointed Alberta's human rights commission didn't dismiss them
"I assumed that
the one who fields this would have looked at this and said this doesn't
stand. This is not an Ernst Zundel case by any means," said Henry. "We
cannot give credence to this."
bishop is no stranger to controversy. He sent a letter to his Calgary
parishes during the last federal election campaign, declaring that Prime
Minister Paul Martin was a bad Catholic for supporting same-sex marriage.
It could take a
year for the complaints against Henry to work their way through the
Alberta Human Rights Commission, said Marie Riddle, the agency's director.
Henry said he
will fight the complaint to the end.
"My time is
pretty valuable and I'm not going to go through a Mickey Mouse procedure
with no hope of success," he said.
same-sex marriage groups were rallying behind Henry.
Focus on the
Family, a Christian group based in British Columbia, said it's troubling
that Henry has become the subject of human rights complaints.
religious groups need to be able to talk about issues like homosexuality
and same-sex marriage without being muzzled, said Derek Rogusky, one of
the group's spokesmen.
about changing something that's a foundational institution of our society,
we're not talking about changing the speed limit on the street," he said
from Langley, B.C.
"If anyone is
successful in bringing charges against Bishop Henry, the would come after
other organizations. It shows that religious freedom protections that the
government talks about really aren't there."
And he calls himself a
Globe and Mail
June 13, 2004
It was probably inevitable sooner or later that the Roman
Catholic Church would wade into the federal election on the issues of
abortion and gay rights. So Bishop Fred Henry has now jumped in to the fray
with both feet in his mouth.
The Bishop of Calgary has issued an open letter and
spoken on national media accusing Prime Minister Paul Martin of being a
"source of scandal" by failing to adhere to Catholic teaching in all his
decisions. For a prime minister, this amounts to taking direction for the
nation from its Catholic bishops.
To this Catholic at least, it is not Paul Martin but
Bishop Henry himself who is the source of scandal on at least two counts.
First, he has overplayed his role as a Catholic bishop. Then he has
overstated his competence in the two areas he singles out: abortion and gay
Bishop Henry implies that the platform of Catholic
politicians must be subject to the approval of the church and the
politicians must interject Catholic dogma into the national discourse. It
has taken the church hundreds of years to recognize the rightful
independence of the secular democratic state, and Bishop Henry's mentor,
Pope John Paul II, has worked assiduously to reclaim the church's power over
the state. But the secular horse has bolted and it's too late to claw back
the French Revolution and restore society to the church's stable.
Bishop Henry excoriates Paul Martin for "moral
incoherence." This is not the first time that he has used a bully pulpit to
make personal attacks on Catholic politicians, and it's always women and sex
that set off these tirades. One would hope that a pastor would refrain from
public ad hominem attacks on individual Catholics. One would also hope that
his pronouncements would reflect a balanced understanding of Catholic
What about war? There's an issue that's equally
prominent in Catholic teaching. Where was Bishop Henry's condemnation of
conservative Catholic politicians who supported the Americans in what the
Pope himself condemned as an unjust invasion of Iraq?
But the bishop appears woefully ignorant of the
Catholic teaching on the primacy of conscience and the very specific church
teaching on the rightful independence of the laity in public life.
"Priests," according the Second Vatican Council, "must have an unfailing
respect for the just liberty which belongs to everyone in civil society.
They should be willing to listen to lay people, and recognize their
experience and competence in different fields of human activity ....."
One cannot but question whether celibate men,
unburdened with the stress of providing food and housing for themselves or
their children, have the competence to understand the complexities of the
decisions women make on abortion. The Canadian Parliament, at least up until
now, has respected the right of women to follow their conscience.
And given the contradictory statements from the Vatican
about whether or not to ordain gay men to the priesthood, there is plenty of
"moral incoherence" on gay issues within the Catholic priesthood. Bishop
Henry would do well to consult with gay Catholic couples about how to live
out a morally coherent gay commitment.
The Vatican's directive to priests to respect the
judgment of laity comes from its highest level of authority: an ecumenical
council. It continues in an even more remarkable vein. "The priest has the
task of bringing about agreement among different outlooks in such a way that
no one may feel a stranger in the Christian community."
Bishop Henry fails to acknowledge the Catholic
community is divided over abortion and gay marriage. Adherence to the
hierarchy's instructions on sexual matters is also at an all-time low in the
church. And in a community still reeling from the effects of the cover-up of
the sexual abuse of children by the clergy, a little humility would go a
long way to restoring the credibility gap the bishops have created by their
own scandalous behaviour.
So here's some advice from this Catholic lay woman to
Bishop Fred Henry. Stop issuing public condemnations about the conscientious
decisions of individual Catholic politicians. Put your own house in order
before you preach to the rest of the world. Have a little more compassion
for politicians who are trying to make this complex and pluralistic society
work, while respecting the rights of all its citizens. And don't speaking
out on areas beyond your competence before consulting those who have more
experience in the issues.
Joanna Manning is an award-winning Catholic teacher
Dignity Canada Dignité is
Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our
church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian,
bisexual, and transgender persons. We work in collaboration with other
Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and